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Summary and book reviews of The End of the Line by Charles Clover

The End of the Line

How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat

by Charles Clover

The End of the Line
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2008, 396 pages

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Book Summary

"Here is the world’s fishing industry laid bare, gutted and filleted for all to see: the greed, the folly, the waste and destruction. You will never look at a fish supper in the same way again." - The Economist.

Gourmands and health-conscious consumers alike have fallen for fish; last year per capita consumption in the United States hit an all-time high. Packed with nutrients and naturally low in fat, fish is the last animal we can still eat in good conscience. Or can we?

In this vivid, eye-opening book—first published in the UK to wide acclaim and now extensively revised for an American audience—environmental journalist Charles Clover argues that our passion for fish is unsustainable. Seventy-five percent of the world’s fish stocks are now fully exploited or over-fished; the most popular varieties risk extinction within the next few decades.

Clover trawls the globe for answers, from Tokyo’s sumptuous fish market to the heart of New England’s fishing industry. He joins hardy sailors on high-tech boats, interviews top chefs whose menu selections can influence the fate of entire species, and examines the ineffective organizations charged with regulating the world’s fisheries. Along the way he argues that governments as well as consumers can take steps to reverse this disturbing trend before it’s too late. The price of a mouthwatering fillet of Chilean sea bass may seem outrageous, but The End of the Line shows its real cost to the ecosystem is far greater.

Introduction
The Price of Fish

Imagine what people would say if a band of hunters strung a mile of net between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged it at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage, like something from a Mad Max movie, would scoop up everything in its way: predators such as lions and cheetahs, lumbering endangered herbivores such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest, family groups of warthogs and wild dogs. Pregnant females would be swept up and carried along, with only the smallest juveniles able to wriggle through the mesh. Picture how the net is constructed, with a huge metal roller attached to the leading edge. This rolling beam smashes and flattens obstructions, flushing creatures into the approaching filaments. The effect of dragging a huge iron bar across the savannah is to break off every outcrop and uproot every tree, bush, and flowering plant, stirring columns of birds into the air. Left ...

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Reviews

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Clover neither sensationalizes nor heckles, he simply lays out the facts, and is merciless at pointing the finger at the guilty parties - from the trawlers with vast nets that destroy everything in their paths, to incompetent and/or dishonest scientists; to celebrity chefs who proudly display the "marine equivalent of panda, rhino and great apes" on their menus; to sports fisherman (23% of endangered species caught in North American waters are caught by sports fisherman) and to the general public for whom eating fish has become "a kind of dietary talisman". However, it is the governments that take the greatest tongue lashing, and with good reason. From self-interested governments who deny there's a problem and hamper ocean conservation; to the governments who allow their fishermen to glibly ignore international rules; to European Union countries (such as Spain) who buy morally questionable fishing right from poor countries for pathetic amounts of money.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod

Clover has taken on a major issue of our times with an inquiring intelligence.

Kirkus Reviews

[R]ead Clover's sobering book, and adjust diet accordingly.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

[T]o really grab people's attention there's nothing like the dispatches of a good investigative reporter. British environmental journalist Clover covers it all.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [T]his devastating book... shows that fishing with modern technology has put us just a hairsbreadth away from destroying entire ocean ecosystems.

The Daily Main (UK)

Devastating . . . a succinct and powerful crash course on the pressing environmental issues surrounding fish that should send consumer awareness soaring.

The Independent (UK)

Persuasive and desperately disturbing, this book is the maritime equivalent of Silent Spring.

The Glasgow Herald, Scotland

This is a revealing and well-paced book, full of colour and just enough detail to make the unfolding disaster real. But, more than that, this is an important book - a first attempt to put fisheries rather than whales or dolphins on the public's conservation radar.

The Economist

Here is the world’s fishing industry laid bare, gutted and filleted for all to see: the greed, the folly, the waste and destruction. You will never look at a fish supper in the same way again.

Time Out London

Ignorance is no excuse if you care about marine life ... [Clover] is unusually well informed, offers facts and firsthand observations instead of speculation, and writes in an engaging way that's not sensational.

Reader Reviews

Bob Smyth

A must for anyone who loves the ocean
I read the book a couple months ago and started reading it again. I found it so full of useful information. I am an advocate for wild, healthy oceans and have done volunteer work with the Ocean Conservancy and Monterey Bay aquarium for the past 18 ...   Read More

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Did you know:

  • Today, the British know the North Sea as muddy and cold. It's always been cold, but evidence suggests that it wasn't always muddy. Just 100 years ago there were vast oyster beds up to 120 miles long in many areas of this shallow sea, but they were all fished out before WWII. Over-fishing removed the oysters and the hard substrate of shells that formed the sea base leaving a muddy base - thus both increasing the sediment and removing the useful bivalves ...

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